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Tax assessor’s response disappoints Germantown flood victims - Shelby County Chamber Alliance

Germantown residents expecting a town hall session with Shelby County Property Assessor Melvin Burgess haven’t had one despite questions about the higher values on their flooded properties.

About 180 Germantown homes were affected by flooding after heavy rains swept through the area in June 2019. While representatives from the assessor’s office saw the damage to homes and held multiple meetings with residents, the property owners thought Burgess promised another meeting to explain why their home values increased with the recent reappraisal.

Many residents were surprised at the higher values thinking the flood damage would lower their appraisal. Not only did they suffer the damage to their homes, but they must disclose the flood problems to future buyers, disclosures that could adversely affect the value.

Burgess said he never made such an arrangement and said he cannot legally make such a promise.

Residents were shocked by the reappraisals. Burgess sent a follow-up letter to affected homeowners in late March, explaining his process. He said multiple times he would hold a town hall meeting with affected residents, and help residents file appeals.

Residents waited, but never heard about a public session. The deadline to request an informal review by the assessor’s office has passed.

Last week the assessor’s office said there will not be a town hall.

“… the assessor met with local government leaders representing Germantown, and they have volunteered to lead residents towards the informal review and appeals processes as questions arise,” Shaun Franklin, communication director for the assessor’s office, said in an email Wednesday, June 2.

However, city leaders said appealing the value of homes is the job of the assessor, and they cannot help with appeals.

Patrick Lawton, Germantown city administrator, said if residents approach city leaders, they are directed to the county assessor since the city has no standing in appeals.

“(Pointing residents to the assessor) is the only thing we can do,” Lawton said Friday. “We have a great relationship with the assessor’s office, but anything with appeals or assessments— that’s in the hands of the assessor and there is a process. But that’s the county.”

Furthermore, Lawton said the city is not involved in setting the value of homes. The city does ask the assessor to certify the tax rate before getting approval from the state. For Germantown, the certified rate will be nearly $1.68 per $100 of assessed value.

Jim Frost held out hope there would be a meeting, but is disappointed there is no plan for one.

“I was counting on them keeping their word,” said Frost, who is in the process of appealing the value of his home.

Frost, 84, is on a fixed income. So he is closely watching how much he will pay in taxes. He is among those who believe representatives from the assessor’s office promised the flood of June 2019 would be taken into account during the reappraisal.

“They denied that they said they were going to take the flooding and resulting loss of values into consideration,” he said. “I’m ticked off that the politicians lied to us again.”

In the March letter, Burgess said he had met with Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis — whose district includes the flooded residents — and Shelby County Commissioner Mark Billingsley.

“I am very very concerned about the victims in Germantown that were flooded,” Billingsley said. “I am very concerned, but hopeful Assessor Burgess will appropriately help these victims — that’s what they are, victims of a horrific flood.”

As a resident of Germantown, he feels for those who dealt with the flood damage.

“I know these people personally,” he said. “They are my friends and my neighbors.”

Billingsley said the assessor wanted to be fair and take a critical look at those affected by the flood, and the commissioner encouraged residents to challenge their value and file an appeal. He advised residents to reach out to his office, and he can help advocate for them.

“I will do my best to represent the citizens in Germantown across Shelby County,” Billingsley said.

By , Daily Memphian Published: June 06, 2021 4:00 AM CT